Top Pick: Arkham Horror | $53 | Amazon
Let the record show: Our readers know their board games. We first noticed that a few months back when we asked for opinions on the best two-player board games. The number of fantastic responses was overwhelming. That made it difficult to choose a select few, which is a much better problem to have than not having enough. Considering how passionate and knowledgeable our readers are on the subject, we figured it’d be good to do another round. This time, we asked our readers what the best single-player board games are.
Once again, you all brought your A-game. We got so many unique, well-thought out submissions featuring games I’d never even heard of. The range of options was incredibly wide too. We got suggestions for really creative titles like Everdell and even an impassioned case for Solitaire. While the idea of a board game for one may trigger a snarky reaction for some, it’s clear that there are some fantastic games out there for those who just want a good solo experience.
We’ve collected some of the best responses below, but this is only a small taste of what’s out there. Our readers made it clear that these titles are only the tip of the iceberg. Check out the selections below and use it as a starting point to take a deep dive into the world of board games.
Arkham Horror | $53
I don’t really like Arkham Horror as a multiplayer game. It takes way too long, and as the usual rules-interpreter, it’s frustrating having to explain every little thing. And because it’s so long, my game group doesn’t play nearly often enough to remember all the rules. As a single-player game, however, it’s sublime. I can play at my own pace, and even leave it out for the night to pick up the next day. It can be deep and varied, and each playthrough is its own story. It might be my favorite solo board game. - doyourealize
Onirim | $44
The game is super simple; navigate a dream labyrinth infested with Nightmares by sequencing cards from your hand on the playfield to find the eight Oniric Doors before the deck runs out. Even on the base difficulty, it can take a few attempts, but once you get it down pat, it comes with seven “Expansions” (including an adorable miniature Nightmare) that change up the landscape and pace/difficulty of the game. Great artwork, killer concept, infinitely replayable, and quite compact (even more compact if you decide to repack into a deckbox).
Any time I travel, I bring this game with me, and I keep the mobile version handy on my tablet to boot. Poke around, and get lost in this maze. - Alex Landry
Marvel Champions | $48
In the big box, you get five different Marvel superheroes and three different villains. The villain has a deck that functions as the AI of the villains actions, and the player(s) construct a deck using a heroes specific kit of cards mixed with cards from one of the four “aspects” (Aggression, Leadership, Protection, and Justice) to try to combat the villain before they can complete their scheme. The game scales in player count by increasing the villain’s HP and the amount of time needed to complete schemes, but the amount of time and the stories that come out of play really shine at 1-2 players. I’ve taken to playing it more “two-handed solo” where I basically play a two player game solo, just because it feels a little crunchier.
The five heroes and three villains in the box create a lot of replayability for the price. Add the fact that you can really go down a rabbit hole of adding new heroes and villains, including the campaigns (the Red Skull campaign that came out last year and the Guardians of the Galaxy campaign that’s coming out next week, both of which add two more heroes and five more villains that can be played sequentially in a campaign), there’s a lot to chew on here. - Corey Phillips
Gloomhaven | $98
So. It’s a four-player game. But it’s a co-op game. And I’ve been playing it solo the entire pandemic. I started out playing with two characters at once. I’m now using four at once, and am having a blast.
A key feature of this dungeon crawler, is the Legacy system. During the campaign, you’ll unlock new locations. Level up your characters and gain new abilities and equipment. BUT. When your character fulfills their personal goal, they retire, unlocking a new character type. There’s a lot of sealed boxes in the game, that only unlock when conditions say to do so. - Spderweb
You can play solo by controlling two characters at once. It does make the game a little easier than two people each controlling a character since you can perfectly execute your strategy, but the game is still plenty difficult.
It’s a great way to explore side-quests and make decisions that a group would not normally make, such as getting a strongly negative reputation. It can also be enjoyable to just figure out the puzzle that each encounter is on your own. You can also change rules that you don’t much care for without altering the experience for other people. - Tiresias
Spirit Island | $60
Spirit Island is a cooperative board game which pits you, as an island spirit, against invading colonizers to scare them off from colonizing the island. In it, you will grow your own power by growing your presence in order to play powers to repel invaders directly or indirectly with the help of the island locals.
The rules are fairly simple, but there is a lot of strategic depth here since powers come in two types—ones that can be played before the invaders perform their actions, or after. This results in a game that rewards thinking about the next turn more than the current turn. The power creep obtained by your spirits is also felt in numerous ways—through the increased income you make per turn, additional powers you can play and in the changing victory conditions, as with the more fear you cause (via destroying towns, cities and other means), the lower the threshold it is to win.
There are multiple difficulties, spirits, and power cards to keep things random and fresh over multiple plays. It can be played as a true solo game in roughly an hour and can be played two handed (a recommendation to see how synergies play out between spirits), adding another 30-45 minutes to the playtime. - kinjameat